I was born and raised in a small town directly across the bridge from Louisville named Jeffersonville, IN. The population is approximately 46,000 and the locals call it the “Sunny-Side” of Louisville. After living in Jeffersonville for 25 years, I truly value diversity. The University of Louisville is just that. I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend the most diverse university in the state of Kentucky! With a town the size of Jeffersonville, I did not often encounter different cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, etc. Becoming a Cardinal enhanced my exposure to diversity.
My route to becoming a Cardinal was not stress free. I was not made aware of the importance of college preparation. The power of preparation is key. The number rule: Get prepared for things to not always go your way! My initial pursuit was to attend a college in Atlanta. My father was set on me moving out the nest and attending a Historically Black College or University; however, financial woes led me to my plan B. I began exploring local colleges in the Kentuckiana area and the University of Louisville (UofL) quickly rose to the top of my list because out of state colleges are expensive and UofL offers in state tuition to residents in surrounding cities.
The greatest lesson I learned was to look for aid and scholarships early! Do not depend on FAFSA alone. Go online and research opportunities. Some colleges also have separate applications for scholarships that may require more than just completing the initial application. Do your research. I cannot stress this enough!
I basically did the majority of research on my own. My father wanted me to look at schools in Atlanta, but I had my heart set on colleges closer to home in order to save money since I knew one day I would eventually go to graduate school and graduate school is very expensive! UofL was an excellent choice for me. The cost of tuition, the Louisville community, and the various cultures are really unmatched.
In middle and high school, I was involved in the National Honor Society and the Renaissance program. These programs helped me value excellence in the areas of scholarship, service, leadership and character.
Advice I would give to high school and middle school students is to get involved early and build a network. It is never too soon to make connections with people. Networks are a powerful resource for references, letters of recommendation and mentors. Although I did not get involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters until I was old enough to be a “Big”, I encourage youth to get involved at a younger age. The program is a great source of mentorship in your studies and higher education.
I am a first-generation college student. Neither my grandparents or my parents obtained a college degree. Although you may be at a disadvantage due to limited resources available in the home, do not let that limit your ability to properly prepare! The two biggest challenges for me was lack of financial assistance and having to use outside resources for college preparation. I did not have a college fund and did not receive much scholarship dollars at the time I was receiving offers from schools. Nonetheless, I did not let that stop me. I was determined to be the first person in my family to get a bachelor’s degree. My only wish is that I had done more research for outside scholarships because I have since discovered I was qualified for many of them.
Another hurdle for me was the lack of college preparation in the home. Basically, I learned through trial and error. I now pay it forward and help mentor youth during their college preparation and have spoken at non-profit agencies like the Louisville Central Community Centers. Inc. about the importance of planning ahead. Find a mentor, a teacher, a church member or an organization that can help you properly prepare. The resources are out there! The key is to never get discouraged. Use your adversity in a positive light. I can honestly say the road to graduation was not easy for me. I was one of the few of my friends that worked 30 hours a week, was heavily involved organizations, and carried a 15-hour course load. Always remember to use every brick thrown at you as a stepping stone. Rejection is not always a sign of failure. There is another plan for you!
Never letting adversity get in the way of my dreams is what makes me extraordinary. Every obstacle that I experienced made me stronger and more resilient. My ending goal is to improve the lives of youth in the community that need it most. I was a “BIG” through Big Brothers Big Sisters for four years and cherish every moment of it. I enjoy doing work on behalf of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., where I mentor through our youth based program- Delta Academy. Delta Academy provides me an opportunity to mentor under-privileged young ladies. This is another way of giving back to the less fortunate with the hope that it will lead to another person being able to attend college. Unfortunately, I did not have the same opportunity growing up. I also am the co-chair of my sorority’s Educational Development committee where I have secured tutors and academic coaches for a local community center and for a privately funded all-male boarding school that targets an at risk population. I researched multiple tutoring opportunities to ensure that the youth have an opportunity to be the best they can be with the hopes of closing the ever widening achievement gap.
In addition, I believe financial literacy is the key to economic success in our community. As a member of our Economic Development committee, I take the initiative to organize workshops and events that cater to those that wish to improve their financial situation. In conclusion, I live through the act of paying it forward. I have a strong desire to have an impact on anyone I meet. I have hopes that the youth I encounter will do the same when they are old enough. As I pursue my MBA at the University of Rochester- Simon Business School later this summer, I still want to motivate those around me, especially young minorities to understand hard work and dedication can get you to where you want to go! Remember, never stop learning!